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Thursday, September 12, 2019

**RECIPE** 3 ingredients bread without flour or cornstarch

Okay, this looks like an amazing recipe but I have not made it myself yet. Its a bread made without flour or cornstarch that - from what the video shows - turns out more like actual bread than I can believe. This is not your friend's Cloud Bread... For one thing, it's not exactly low-carb from what my diet app displays, but is is gluten-free.

I found this on a YouTube channel called Recipes That Work. Well, they work for some of us more than others... I'm half-joking.

The video has over a million views probably because people had to watch over and over to get the recipe down... Or maybe I am just cynical.

The real problem I had with the video is that the recipe was not simply listed in the description. I had to watch and pause to get what part I did. Oh, and the video is in Spanish. Have you seen how badly I can butcher English??? The recipe is online here but I had trouble with translations. Anyway, here is the video and underneath I've done the best that I could do at noting the ingredients. Also, I suck at math. I think I got everything converted well enough...


slow the vid down at Settings to about 0.5


In order to get the correct recipe (because slowing down/pausing the video gave me rage urges), I had to do a copy of the print version from the page link.


My best guess at the milk amount from watching the video was... about 1 to 1 1/4 cup but... be sure to watch for the right texture. By the way, I will be using my whole-fat Hoosier Farms dry milk powder or the dry milk powder from Walmart. I have put in a question to the publisher of the video

Instructions (of course, watch the video but this is what I will be doing)

  • Wisk together the eggs and baking powder 
  • Add the milk powder a little at a time & wisk very well 
  • Batter should look very smooth - I thought it looked like a thin smooth yellow frosting
  • Using a piping bag (I will be using a baggie with a cut tip) to spread onto a parchment-lined baking sheet
  • Bake at 375 for apprx 10 minutes (until the ends are a golden brown)
Apparently, you can experiment with the shape of the bread by piping long lines, fat lines, or even fat circles.

I have tried to check with the video owner to verify about the milk and ingredients. Not sure why they didn't just list them for people to print. They did tell me in the comment section to never add more liquid.

Again, check the webpage to change the servings and ingredients' amounts. 

The bread looks amazing and I can't wait to try it, but I have to check my powder milk supply. But for now... good night.

Peace
--Free

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Updated (AGAIN) **REVIEW** Livescribe 2GB Echo Smartpen

When I was telling you all about the Bibisco software the other day, I forgot to mention that I have been using it along with my Livescribe Echo smartpen. I am so surprised to realize that I have had that pen just over 3 years now - as of this past July. I've dragged this poor thing from Alaska and back (a couple of times), to Arizona, and here to my new home in Iowa. She's still kicking.

I even still have the cover for the tip!

I still use this pen all the time - more so this year than last. I  was reading some reviews on Amazon as I was getting ready to write this post. For this pen and some of the newer versions, there seem to be a LOT of negative reviews. I have never had many problems my pen! People are talking about having problems with recording/playing back audio, the pen just not working after a short period, and - this is really bad - poor customer service. Thankfully, I have never had to contact customer service. And maybe I should not have just jinxed myself...

The one thing I was annoyed about was running out of ink and having to change the refill. I was nervous about breaking something. And I have to look up info on using regular ink refills for the pen... The only real issue I ever had was to do with software. When Echo upgraded the desktop software, I had a heck of a time trying to get it sorted out. And I was super disappointed that the MyScript software is no longer being sold or supported - BUT I still have my old copy and it works fine so far. I'd been using it without realizing that it had gone extinct for others. And, by the way, if you ever had a license for MyScript and just lost your copy, here is where you might still be able to download one.

This is what everything looks like in the Echo app
when transferred straight from the pen





On the left side is what I sent from the Echo app to MyScript
On the right is what MyScript converted my
handwritten notes into

The best thing about the conversion that MyScript does is that I can send that straight into a Word doc. With a little bit of cleanup, it's as if I typed it all into Word. Life in the 21st century, right?

For those interested in how long one of the single-subject notebooks last, I had gotten a 4-pack at the time I bought the pen. I still have that set now.  I have dedicated each notebook to a single writing project and only one of them has more than 30 pages used. They are 100-page notebooks (200 pages using back and front) and I'm so glad I've had them.

I was checking the prices on the pen and paper today and this how they compare to when I purchased:
  • Livescribe 2GB Echo Smartpen (me: $111.19) (now 3rd party = $258 -$298) (Livescribe Amazon store = $259) **
  • Livescribe 5-pack of notebooks (me $28.59) (now $31.50)
  • Livescribe brand ink refills 5-pack (me $5.14) (today the ones I bought currently unavailable. Suggestions were priced at $11.99 for the 5-pack)
There are some generic pens that aren't priced too high but the reviews are mixed. I guess I should be really glad that I got that pen when I did because I can't even afford the paper refills right now!

For other writers who can afford it, I do think that a smartpen is worth it. For students, I think it is almost critical for keeping track of class notes and lectures. A smartpen is more dependable than our phones for that.

By the way, not long after I got the pen, I told an acquaintance who then purchased one. They went all out and got the pen, a bunch of refills, a couple sets of the notebooks, and a really nice leather holder for their pen. I checked with them by text as I was doing this post to see what they think of the pen after a few years. They stopped using the pen and ended up losing it when MyScript went down. They did not know that they could still use their old copy. And why throw out the whole pen? MyScript is not a necessity. I was kind of blown away. I don't think they read my blog but, if they do, I will say it again: WHAT A WASTE! They could have gifted the pen to a student or co-worker... Ay yi yi...

Anyway, that's my update on the smartpen and how useful it's been to me. It's been 3 years so if something goes crazy with it now, I won't really complain too loudly.

Peace
-Free


** I just saw that the 2GB pen is up on Amazon for $180. I don't know how long that will last because I got those other prices when I started the post a couple of days back.

My new addiction & song-on-repeat


Wednesday, September 04, 2019

**REVIEW** Bibisco Novel Writing Software

Let me start by saying a few things about Bibisco:
  1. The free version is so worth it, and
  2. The donate (Supporters Edition) is awesome, but
  3. If you can't afford the SE, you will not be disappointed with the free version.
There. Now let me give you an overview of my experience so far.

I found Bibisco while I was trying to decide whether or not to buy Plottr. Plottr looks awesome but I could never get the trial to work well enough to try it out. Also, Plottr is $40 and I simply cannot dig that deep into what I laughingly call my "budget". I can't even tell if Plottr would be worth the money since I can't use the trial. If there are problems with the trial version, then...

Anyway, I found Bibisco via one of the sites that lists the alternatives to programs. Unlike most open-source software, I was able to easily download and install it. That was a Plus. And then I started playing around with it and was blown away.

The best thing about Bibisco is that it helps you really get acquainted with your plot and characters. I know that it seems like I would be very intimate with both after years of messing with this story in my head, but, no, 
 
Bibisco doesn't just help you get your novel outlined and set up. It's sort of like a human motivator. You are prompted to do some of the things writers least like. If you are like me, you just want to start writing and get the story told. There is work to be done beforehand that can make the storytelling job easier in the long run. If you really do understand why and how you are going to tell an amazing story, it's easier to get on with it.

Now, I will take a lesson from Writing Advice 101 and show not tell:

THIS IS WHERE YOU START AFTER NAMING YOUR PROJECT





FOR NEWBIES (and me) WHO MIGHT NOT KNOW WHAT A ... "FABULA" IS...






Let's hope I didn't duplicate any photos up there.

So you can see that Bibisco helps get and keep you organized. Once you are on your way, it helps you track scenes and characters or even rearrange them as needed. Those are all my raves. Let's get to some of the negatives...

One thing you are going to want to do for every project is to dedicate a place on your desktop. Do NOT just store your Bibisco project somewhere in the clutter of your other files. I did that when I downloaded Bibisco CE (the free version). When I donated to get the SE (Supporters Edition), the old files integrated nicely with the new version but I goofed somewhere and couldn't find the last updated files. I rooted around in my computer folders like a crazy woman looking for something in a dumpster. Worst of all, the Bibiso app did not pull up in any searches or the Start bar. I had done a print of my work to that point so I just went ahead and dumped everything to start over. Somehow, part of my old files restored. 

So WARNING: do what I have. I set up a folder on my desktop just for storing all things Bibisco. I also set the Bibisco app up on my taskbar so I don't lose it again. 

Even though there is an Autosave function, I recommend exporting every now and then. You can export to Word, PDF, or as an Archive (whatever that means).

Bibisco is super awesome but it is open-source. Maybe it's just me, but I have a history of stabilization issues with open-source software. So, once again, the only downside to Bibisco is that you must back up everything often and in every way you can. Just in case.

One last thing: The GitHub download of the Supporters Edition is a pay-what-you-want deal. Kind of. I think it starts at 12Eurodollars minimum. On the day I ordered, the conversion charged was $13.16 USD. 

Peace
--Free


Sunday, September 01, 2019

Some Recipes & Calorie Counts

For the past month, I've been eating quite a bit and losing weight. I tried Keto, I tried OMAD and using the meal shakes, and all that. They all work for certain people and they would work for me if I could keep them up for life. And I can't. I cannot restrict myself to certain foods and trends. Life is varied and my food desires are just as varied. I failed because I had too many "cheat" days. There were days when I didn't want to be low-fat or high-fat or one-meal or fasting for 16 hours. Agh!

First I got frustrated and then I got real. After talking with my doctor, I was reminded that in addition to aging, I am also on certain medicines that inhibit easy weight loss. Okay then. So what I finally accepted is that the trick to staying in a healthy shape as you get older is to find what works for you instead of following every trend that comes along. Listen I even prayed about this situation!

My new reality is that I am over 50 and I am going to have to be diligent to maintain a healthy body. Because I did fail at other plans like Keto, fasting, and OMAD (one meal a day), I decided to hold off sharing what I'm doing until I could keep it up. I finally have this. I am down 10.7 pounds in 5 weeks and so far I'm not regretting anything. I am eating what I like but I do have to at least loosely keep track. This is what a typical day looks like:

Breakfasts
  • I try to drink at least 8 ounces of lemon water. This is easier if I have some miracle berries beforehand. It's downright yummy after a miracle berry.
  • As much black coffee as I want (I will tell you how I broke my sugary creamer habit) without getting too much sodium.
  • Either 2 greek yogurt pancakes or a cup of overnight oatmeal with brown sugar (recipes will be shown later). The oats are a favorite because it's easy and very filling.
Snacks
  • Baby carrots with a couple tablespoons of Ranch, or 
  • Butter crackers plain or with cheese or with thin-sliced packaged ham, or
  • Cheese and grapes/apples, depending on which  fruit I happen to have, or
  • Tuna (with mayo and onion) solo or on butter crackers, or
  • A single-serve bag of popcorn (my fave is kettle corn)
  • If I have miracle berries beforehand - Plain, no-fat Greek yogurt or plain goat cheese on crackers
Dinners
  • Cabbage (or a bag of coleslaw greens) steamed with sausages and bacon
  • Homemade burger on regular bread with a salad
  • Pork chop with salad, spinach/kale/collards on the side
  • Ground beef stuffed with spinach or kale, onions and garlic and topped with a couple tablespoons of spaghetti or pizza sauce (see recipes)
  • A dinner-breakfast of eggs and bacon and a couple of yogurt pancakes
Desserts
  • If I have miracle berries beforehand - Plain, non-fat Greek yogurt/sour cream "cheesefake" (see recipes)
  • A pint of Halo icecream
  • Cheese-fake
If you notice, I don't use any artificial sweeteners. I don't like them and I'm not sure they are any better for my health than real sugars. 

I have to be really honest and tell you that I think the biggest kick-off to weight loss for me was giving up my heavily sweetened coffees. Here is what I was putting at least 3-5 tablespoons into a 16-oz coffee:

Almost 200 calories per mug


If I do need to "soften" some coffee that might be too strong or "bitter", I will use some of this instead:

100 calories is a lot better than 175

Since I tend to drink at least 2 16-ounce mugs of coffee in a day, I try to stick to this Luzianne brand which is too weak or any sweet creamer but perfect to drink black. I am so glad I found it. I know some people who choose McDonald's coffee as the one the can drink black. In my opinion, this Luzianne is way better and more consistent. Just be aware of the sodium in coffee. It varies, I think, by brand. I'm actually kind of over the whole dessert-coffee thing, tell the truth.



The other thing I had to train myself to was eye-balling calories. I faithfully used the Lose It app at first but now I can gauge how many calories a meal or snack is. I would buy the Premium version if it was a reasonable one-time purchase but... Ugh.

What I've learned about myself is that I am never as hungry as I think. What I am is a person who eats for every emotion: happy, sad, mad - everything but depressed. When I am depressed, I am even worse because I don't want to cook or take my time to find something decent to eat. I once ate nothing but some lemon teacake for about 24 hours. TWO lemon teacakes made with enough sugar to induce diabetes by smell and drizzled with a powdered sugar glaze. I didn't sleep, I just lay around in blue funk eating pieces of cake, sobbing and watching Andy Griffith reruns.

Great app but crazy-priced for the Premium version

So, I am that kind of an eater. And I will probably always struggle with depression. What I am doing now when I don't have the energy to cook or choose healthy meals, is fix the overnight oats and I eat a lot of baby carrots. I love baby carrots. I can eyeball what a tablespoon of ranch dressing looks like so I spend my sad or fatigued moments with a bag of baby carrots and ranch dressing. I think I once peed orange and cried white tears.

My big dessert hack is to eat a miracle berry and then snack on a cup of plain, nonfat Greek yogurt with a squirt of lemon juice mixed in. It's like eating cheesecake. And that brings me to the simple "recipe" for what I call Cheese-fake:
  • 1 miracle berry (to eat just beforehand)
  • 1 1/2 cup of non-fat Greek Yogurt, strained overnight (use cheesecloth or a substitute)
  • 1/2 Tablespoon of lemon juice (fresh or bottled)
  • Mix the 2 ingredients together
  • Put into a small container (I use a Tupperware sandwich container) and out into the fridge for a couple hours.
  • You can add more lemon juice or even top it with fresh, peeled lemon slices. The more lemon, the more cheese-cakey the flavor.
  • If you want to splurge a little, you can make a Fiber One crust...
I have ended up with some weak miracle berries and will sometimes have to eat 2 of them to get the same effect so be warned.

Anyway,m here are those recipes. I collected them from various places (online and from memory) and made them my own. You can mix them up by adding different seasonings. By the way, I just used screenshots of my recipes stored in the Lose It! app. It works out all the calories based on the app's listings or what you scan in from your item packaging. Handy.






*** This is for the crust




On one of my OMAD days, I made up my own recipe for stuffed meatloaf using the following ingredients. You basically season the ground beef with seasonings shown (and any others you want) and roll it out on some plastic wrap or parchment paper to get it as flat as possible. Then you layer half of the spaghetti (or pizza sauce) and all of the other ingredients down the middle of the meat. Stay away from the sides. Roll the meat up with the stuff inside and make sure the sides are tucked around so the ingredients don't leak out. Wrap the bacon around it and plop it into a small loaf pan, top it with the rest of the sauce and cover with tin foil and bake at 350 for at least an hour. At the 45-minute mark, I like to uncover the meat and drain all the oil out before I finish baking it uncovered.  I only use the bacon for seasoning and will toss it when the loaf is finished cooking. Although it's a high-calorie meal, it's the only one I eat that day so I can even have a salad with a couple tablespoons of dressing at some point and be done with it. 




So that's it. There are a lot of recipes online for substituting greek yogurt for sour cream or frosting or whatever. Enjoy.

Peace
--Free

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

If Your Heart Is Hurting

This is normally something that I would post on my other blog where I discuss things of faith. I strongly felt today that it was something I needed to post here. What I want to say, I want to say to those who may not be Christian.

I've been struggling for years with my own depression. Anyone who deals with depression and anxiety can tell you want a battle it is. It's the kind of thing that can drag you down to the very bottom of your strength and will to live. If not for my faith, I would not be here, I can promise you that. I would have committed suicide years ago. This is why I always pray so hard for other people who deal with depression. I don't know how they make it through from one day to the next if they have no faith in God. Today, I have been thinking of all the other people out there who may be hurting and feeling lost.

I'm not going to preach to you. I'm just going to tell you that, no matter what else you may believe, you are loved. You are loved deeply and completely.

You aren't going to to find relief from your pain in drugs or sex or money or fame. You aren't going to find what you need in yourself. What you have is the absence of knowledge that you are loved. You need to know and understand why and Who loves you.

I know people like myself who most of the time look perfectly happy and content. There are people who look like they are handling life just fine. Some people - those I know and those I don't - have what the world thinks of has the keys to happiness. There are three keys: something to do, someone to love, and something to hope for. A lot of people have everything but the key to hope. They keep busy and active and have lots of people they could be around if they wanted. They are, some of them, very successful. At the least, they are likely looked upon as someone who "has it all". But those people who have everything but real hope are some of the saddest people who've lived.

You've heard it before and you will hear it again that "God loves you" but that doesn't mean anything unless you have a reason to believe it. It's hard to believe when we don't get a lot of logical reasons to believe. It's frustrating to have people giving you their "thoughts and prayers" and telling you that God loves you when they don't give you a reason to believe that there is a God. If anyone would like, I'd be more than happy to pray with and for you.

I'm no scholar or Bible teacher but I would like to share some links with you to people who do a good job of giving reasons to believe. I hope that these help you and I hope that, no matter what, you find hope. The links are below.

Peace
--Free




  • Learn the Bible in 24 Hours is not a learning of the whole Bible, of course, but it is a nice overview for someone who wants to understand why they should respect the authenticity of Scripture. Chuck Missler is a wonderful teacher, unlike most Bible teachers, he doesn't come from they typical seminary/Bible college background. He was a business executive and had more of a tech background.
  • Dr. Jason Lisle teaches how the Bible is confirmed in math and physics. His approach can be a bit scholarly but I admire his ability to make complex subjects accessible to the laymen. This link is to just one of his videos. 
  • There are many, many video and audio resources online of the Dr. Walter Martin debates. He was able to always be loving and kind when comparing Christianity to other religions. Because everyone wants to know why Christianity is the one true religion. Here is the link to a large playlist of some of Martin's debates. He died years ago so these videos are quite old but still, of course, relevant.

**REVIEW** Walmart Beauty Box Classic Summer 2019

It sure seems like it's been a while since I posted a review about a Walmart box. I think this was the last one way back in January. The best thing about the Walmart box is the five dollar price. I've gotten quite a few of these quarterly beauty boxes - 5 now that I go back and count. I've been getting them since June of last year. I will have to scrounge up some of the past reviews and link back to them at some point. Anyway... This is the Classic Summer box I received the other day:


While the samples were as good as usual, I was a little disappointed that there was no theme for this box. With the Ipsy boxes (which I no longer subscribe to) there was always a theme and always a bag to carry the items. Walmart did send a bag once and other than the big old ugly Walmart sunburst logo, it was kinda cute. Oh well. Let's talk about what was in this box. I will go in order of fave to least fave:

Blistex Lip Conditioning Serum - This was pretty awesome. I do think that you're supposed to be able to use it alone and go, but I apply my regular lip balm on top of it. The serum is very creamy and has the consistency of a rich water-based lotion. It softens and smooths and I feel that it's helping my lips but the balm effects don't last long enough for me. I've been using it after doing my morning lip scrub (wiping all that dryness away with a baby wipe!). I like the tapered dispensing tip. Best thing about this is that Walmart actually included the 0.30-oz size in this box. You can get a chance to really test it out. Nice. ($2.96 online)




Let me just say right here that I really didn't want to have to admit that I could use an eye cream like this. But.

I don't know yet how well this works (it's only been a few days), but kudos to Walmart for including this full-sized $18 0.5 fluid ounce tube of RoC Retinol Correxion Anti-Aging Eye Cream Treatment. I've heard good things about RoC and I do like the way this hydrates the area right around my eyes. I've been using it at night only because I'm nervous about how the sun might affect my skin with a  Retinol-based product on it. Because of the slightly thin texture of the cream and the instructions to apply it in dots, this tube should last a good long while. ($17.95)



This is way too much
for one application

Since I am one of those women who has never had to shave a lot, razors last me forever. I do tend though to buy cheap ones. It's nice to have this BIC Soleil Sensitive 3 Blade Women's Disposable Razor. I've used one before and then I go back to my cheap ones for budget reasons but, every time I try one of these, I love how nice they feel. By the way, the moisture strip on these razors are the best part but they do tend to get gunky after a while. I tossed one out a few weeks ago after it had been sitting in the shower for a while and it was icky. These come at a good price for a pack of 3 at $5.97. This single one will last me for at least a couple of months. Thank goodness for naturally hairless legs!





Now, for my 2 least favorite samples...

There's nothing wrong with the Neutrogena Blackhead Eliminating Pore Strip to Facial Scrub I'm sure. Except for that long name that nearly winded me. I personally just don't like any kind of pore-stripping product. I used to. I used to use this type of thing all the time until I realized a couple of things. One: not all of those little dark hair-spot things on the nose are actually blackheads. Two: these strips work at pulling those things out but they leave my face incredibly dry. Probably because they ripped out those skin-nourishing black things... At any rate, for someone with actual blackheads, this might work really well. Walmart only included one strip in the box and I'm okay with that. ($12.89 for 14 strips)


















I get really excited whenever I see a perfume sample. I L.O.V.E. fragrances. The last one I sampled was You by Glossier and I can't wait for someone in my family to gift me a bottle. ~hint hint~ Well, I was really excited when is saw that Walmart included a sample of a Silhouette in Bloom by Christian Siriano and that it was a nice amount (2ml). I remember way back when he was competing on Project Runway. Now that his talent is being celebrated by the celebrated, I'm thrilled for him. And I just about hurt myself opening this perfume sample. Sadly, heartbreakingly, this did not live up to even my lowest expectations.  This is not a horrible fragrance but it does smell really cheap. And don't get me wrong - I shall always love me some Charlie and Emeraude. What I mean about this one is that it has a chemical-plastic under-scent. It's just like no thought at all was put into the fragrance. It reminds me of one of those dollar-store "perfumes" that the girls used to get us for Mother's Day when they were young. I remember having to sit at work all day smelling like I'd tried to mask pissy pants with room spray.  To top it off, this scent doesn't do anything nice with my body chemistry. I don't even like the look of the bottle that's pictured on the sample. Also, now that I look at the price, I realize it's way too high for the "Barbie Doll" smell. Ick and Yikes ($38.89) I would rather spend forty bucks on a 1 ounce split of something nice than for a whole bottle of this. Sorry, Christian. (He don't care while he's over there, rolling in his money!)


Maybe the black & purple
ones smell better???


So there you have it. Once again, Walmart has put out a better box than those that cost twice or three times as much. Basically, for five dollars, all you're paying is the shipping and handling. The RoC sample more than paid for this one. If I had liked the Silhouette fragrance, I'd have really hit the jackpot. By the way, I think I will try mixing that scent with some other fragrance to see if I can make it work. ~shrug~

If you are interested in subscribing to the Walmart Beauty box, it has its own page where you can do so.

Peace
--Free

Monday, August 26, 2019

Strangers Listening

I talk to myself. I don't mean that I mumble every now and then when I stub a toe or something like that. I mean that I have whole conversations with myself. Sometimes I'm talking about something I did ("Why the heck did I buy that plant? I've already killed two of them. That's five dollars I could have spent on some flour or some more tin foil. I am out of tin foil, aren't I? I think I used the last of it the other day. Let me go look. I might have some more in the pantry. Oh, man, I need to straighten this pantry up..."). Sometimes, I am praying out loud or just bargaining with God ("I really am trying to be a nicer person, Lord. Please help me to deal better with my anger." Or, "One of these days, I'm going to run into a wall and do more than give myself a knot on the head. Oh, Lord, please don't let me die from something so stupid. If I have to die, let it be from doing something heroic - or just let me die in my sleep. And please let all my laundry be done and the house clean when it happens. And let me be wearing my good PJs and not have my hair up in twists and a satin scarf.")

You might think I'm just being funny, but I am so serious. I talk to myself so much that I have to tell myself to shut up. Not only do I have those random conversations, but I also talk my way through my writing. I come up with whole pages of dialogue for my characters this way. There are times when the characters are being particularly hilarious and I make myself laugh and laugh and laugh. I'm not sure whether that might be entertaining or just frightening for anyone eavesdropping. And it's the potential eavesdropping that I want to post about today.

I have an Alexa device. I have the Echo Dot. I got it a couple of years ago during a Christmas sale. I don't use it every day. Sometimes, I don't turn it on for weeks at a time. Usually, I use it for listening to music or audiobooks when I'm cleaning or doing other chores around the house. (Even when I use it, I always deactivate the microphone by pushing that one button on top.) I have used it once or twice to call my brother to see if I left my cell phone at his house or in his car. Now that I also have a landline, I don't need the Dot for that. I used to say that if I got very sick and couldn't reach my phone, I'd have Alexa call my family. Of course, then I'd have to put up with all their "I've fallen and I can't get up jokes" for the next ten years... But, like I said, I sometimes don't turn the thing on for weeks. My best friend leaves hers on and uses it for almost everything - finding recipes, checking the weather, help with spelling, setting reminders, and asking random questions. But back to the eavesdropping.

When I read somewhere a while back that Alexa (or Alexa employees) could be listening in even when you hadn't voice-activated it, I got worried. Not worried that it was listening to my solo conversations but that it was listening to me while I had guests or was using the phone. That's just rude. I'm pretty sure that someone somewhere is always watching and listening to us, but I brought Alexa into my home, so it needs to have some manners. I didn't know whether the nosy thing was "training" when I had the microphone deactivated or not. So I searched around and found out how to opt-out of the setting for Alexa "training" itself by listening to me.

For a couple of weeks, I assumed the whole problem of Alexa listening in was handled. Then I was watching one of my favorite YouTube channels where the host brought up why she will never bring an Alexa device into her home and I felt kind of stupid. This host mentions that even her 10-year old son realized early on that Alexa has to always be listening. Otherwise, how does it know when you are speaking the activation word.

Someone, please tell me right now that I'm not the only idiot who never thought of this. Please.

Here's the thing, even without an Alexa device, I don't think that we are free of strangers listening (and looking) in on us. I have a friend who is very computer literate. As soon as they were commonplace, he taught me to always cover the camera lenses on my PC and phone. I always have, though I don't know that it does any good. I'd never done anything about the microphone until recently.

My best friend I and talked about the privacy issue a long time ago. We had started to notice something after we had talked on the phone with someone or even had a conversation in the privacy of our homes. Maybe you've noticed it too? Have you ever had a conversation - not on the computer - and then when you go online, there are advertisements for things you talked about? I can't remember when my friend and I first noticed, but we have had this happen a lot. Usually, we are talking about food (me) or clothes (her) and then the next time we are online, we will see some very specific brand or product that we mentioned. In one of my email accounts, ads run all along one side or the in-box. For instance, I've been on the phone with my friend, talking about a recipe that requires, say, puff pastry and all of a sudden, I will see ads for that very thing. Or we can be discussing some kind of item we want to purchase - like a chair or couch - and, boom, there's an ad for one.

Just in case you think my friend and I are just a little bit nuts (we are, but...), this has happened with other people. I've had a couple of people have this happen. The bestie's sister is aware of it too. My friend and her sister will be in their home talking and see that same kind of thing happen. I was talking with a neighbor - standing at the door at least 10 feet from my phone, computer, and television - talking about one of those meal delivery services. She had gotten some coupons and was offering to share them with me and a couple other neighbors. I declined and thanked her and we chatted for a few minutes before she left. I went back to the computer where I had been blogging and when I checked my mail there was one of those ads. For the next several hours, everywhere online I went, a lot of the advertisements were for different meal delivery services. Now that is just creepy.


Remember that I mentioned the microphone on my phone? Well, I recently went in and checked over all the permissions for the different apps I have installed. I disabled the phone and camera access for all of them that I could. I now only turn those permissions on temporarily as I need them.

I know that people say we are living in the age of the 'smart' home and we have all these so-called 'smart' devices. I just think that the smarter the devices get, the dumber we become.

I'm getting to be so paranoid. I realize that I gave away most of my privacy a long time ago just by joining into social media and blogging and email platforms, but I still want to retain as much control as I can. As far as talking to myself, well, that's never going to change. And it's not something I do because I'm single and turning into a plant-lady-is-the-new-cat-lady. I have always talked to myself and I have driven husbands and roommates crazy doing it. My best friend does the same thing and she says it's because we like talking to intelligent people. Now see, that's why she's my best friend!

Peace
--Free

Saturday, August 24, 2019

**REVIEW** Etereauty Trave-Sized Facial Cleansing Brush

(This is for those vendors who have been sending me their products unsolicited: I will NOT review your items on Amazon because of that site's most recent review policies. However, because some of you are so persistent, I will post reviews of your product(s) here on the blog. That said, this post is a review of one another of those products.)

So, as always, when I get one of these unsolicited items in the mail to review, I wanted to ignore it.




Then, I kept looking at it on the day when I was going to be doing my weekly facial. Normally, that only involves using a really gentle homemade mask of oatmeal, honey, and coconut oil. I let this mixture sit on my face for about 5 minutes before I wet my fingertips in a bowl of water and massaged everything in, and then I rinse and moisturize.

That's it. Simple. But I noticed that this cleansing tool comes with a silicone brush. It looks soft. I took it out of the case. It is soft. Okay.

So I decided that this would be one of those items I would review here. I still won't post anything on Amazon because that's against the rules. However, here is the product link. Now, let's do this.

PROS
  • It is compact enough to tuck into the corner or a suitcase (or even stow in a backpack).
  • With fresh batteries, it's really powerful.
  • The silicone head feels wonderful as a facial massager
  • Easy on-off switch
  • Ergonomic and easy to grip
CONS
  • Does require batteries (that are not included)
  • Easy to run down batteries. I think I got full-power use for about an hour and a half's use (spread over a week's time).
  • The pumice is too much, IMO, for use on elbows and knees, and not strong enough for foot calluses or heels.
  • The price (again, IMO) is a bit high. There are too many similar devices with good reviews that are cheaper.
Despite the negatives - which really aren't awful - this is a decent facial device. Even for people who don't travel, it's useful. Having a plug-in option would be awesome.

Thank you, Etereauty, for letting me try this.

Peace
--Free

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

To All the Vapes I've Loved Before

Okay, I have been promising for a minute to do this post. Now that it's been a year since I went cigarette-free, I thought it was a good time to sort of showcase my vape collection. Some of these devices I won (yay, me) or were gifted (because people were glad I quit cigs) or that I gifted myself (with money saved from not smoking). I have to say that I do NOT miss smoking even though I sometimes miss the smoking rituals. I do like vaping. I can vape without nicotine and I can vape without stinking. I dig it.




I know that there have been a lot of news reports of the dangers of vaping and, honestly, I agree with others who think the problems come from outside "normal" vaping. People who are using juices from any and everywhere might be getting bad additives in their eliquid. Also, a lot of folks are vaping weed and who knows what else. It's just like with the stories of people hurt by exploding devices. Usually, those are situations of people improperly using vapes or amateurs improperly using specialty devices meant only for the experienced. You will not soon - if ever - see me using something I had to build and set up myself. No thank you, ma'am. It took me a week to get comfortable just choosing juice to put into an easy-fill, off-the-shelf device.

These are the devices I love and what I think of them now that I have more experience vaping.

First, let me say that after I wrote this post, I realized that I forgot to mention the device that I tried and went back to cigarettes. This was probably 5 or 6 years ago when ecigs were getting to be really popular in Alaska. I wanted to quit (again) and a friend went to the corner cigarette store and bought me a Blu device. I was so hopeful. Then I tried it. Ugh. That was the worst ever experience of my life. I didn't understand why people preferred a "vape" over cigarettes. I stayed on cigarettes until I moved here to Iowa. I saw the friend of a friend vaping away on a tiny ecig. I asked if they really liked it and I told them about the Blu. They let me try their device (I think it was an Aspire or something similar). It was decent. It didn't make me cough or feel like I was inhaling sandpaper down my throat. That's when I knew that I could find an alternative to cigarettes. So...

The Juul was my first. I loved this thing. I was able to give up cigarettes with it. The vape was just as strong of a nicotine hit as the full-flavor cigarettes I smoked except the flavor and scent was Mango. How I loved the Mango pods. However...

Juul pods are so expensive that I wasn't saving any money. Also, eventually, Juul stopped selling the Mango pods. I rarely use the device anymore. The replacement and refillable pods I've found just are never as good as the original Juul pod.
Veneno

I had one or two other small cheapo devices like that amazing $9 Boulder that I eventually gave to my SIL. She loves and still uses it. I wanted something that gave me the flavor of the smaller pod Juul device. I was seriously over cigarettes at this point. Enter the Smok Veneno. Wow. This thing scared me a little at first. My nephew had to show me everything from how to fill it to how to change the coils. I still to this day never mess with changing the wattage except from up to down! I do love this though. It's a workhorse and it can handle being dropped (a couple of times) and tossed into purses and backpacks. I can also switch out tanks with the Caliber. I really do love this and will have til it quits on me.

After the Veneno, things get blurry as far as which device came next and when. Because I won or was given a couple of devices, I would pay it forward by giving them to someone else trying to quit cigs and wanting to try vaping. I at one time had at least 2 devices similar to the Boulder. Those went to friends and neighbors and I hope they helped them. As for the rest, here are some that I still have and I link to any reviews I might have written for them.

PockeX
This is the Aspire PockeX. I have learned that I'm not a huge fan of the smaller and less powerful mouth-to-lung devices out there. Even though MTL mimics smoking a cigarette, I have gotten used to direct to lung vaping since I don't use high nicotine (or, sometimes any nicotine) and like the clouds and flavor more than anything. I hope that made sense!

Overall, this PockeX is great for "ladylike" vaping. It a nice device for slipping into the purse or pocket for trips to the store or when you are around people who might not vape. I have literally vaped right in front of people who never noticed because this device is so discreet. However, I never got a lot of flavor with this. 

Pico Baby
 This little beauty is the Eleaf Istick Pico Baby 25W Kit. It's one of my favorites as far as how it looks. It's just cute and discreet and stylish. And it was under $15 believe it or not. It's a nice vape - much more powerful than you'd expect for such a tiny device. It didn't come with extra coils and I always burn through them quickly.

But when I say this device is tiny, I mean just that.




So, there's the cute, tiny Pico Baby and then there's the big brother...

Squeeze2
The Pico Squeeze is a squonk device. Listen, I had zero business getting this thing! I didn't understand what a "squonk" was. Now I know. Thank goodness I have a young (young adultso don't freak out) nephew who was once so into vaping that he built his own devices (whatever that means). He came over and set everything up for me and told me to call him whenever I need to do anything more complicated than filling the juice reservoir.

I don't use this one often - because of my nephew's instructions - but when I do, it is awesome. I can't really describe how much more smooth and defined flavors are when using a squonk. Just freaking superb.

Now, believe it or not, between winning devices, getting them as gifts, and finding sales, I don't spend nearly as much money on vapes as I did on cigarettes. With cigarettes, I was sometimes going through over a pack of cigarettes a day. At the time I was in Alaska, a pack cost over 9 dollars and sometimes as much as 10 and change. Crazy habit. Now that I vape, a $7 bottle of
ejuice can last me 2 weeks or more. Of course, I don't use fancy juice. I also have found places like the Dollar eJuice Club. Mostly, I use VapeWild juice that I can find at Electronic Tobacconist (and skip the crazy shipping or club fees). So I do like finding devices that are no longer brand new on the market. Once the new device craze wears off, I can snatch up a 40- or 50-dollar device for 15 to 20 dollars. Don't believe me? Go back and look at what I paid for some of the devices compared to what they cost several months before my review.

Anyway, it did take me a while to learn what kind of vape experience I like. I'm not into a lot of bling-bling or alterable parts and stuff. I just want something that's decent-looking and gives a nice flavor. Okay, I do like my vapor too! Once I settled into my vape groove, I was more careful about falling for all the hype every time something new came out. And I was really happy with what I already had in my collection.


Then, because I remembered the joys of the Juul, I wanted to see if there was anything just as good. I especially wanted a more "able" device than the Juul - more affordable and definitely refillable. And along came the Uwell Caliburn.


I didn't immediately love the way it looks. The Caliburn is so much fatter than the Juul. As soon as I vaped the device I forgot all about the Juul. The one and only thing that Juul has on the Caliburn are those high-nicotine pods. I think that's what attracts newly-quit smokers. You get such a good taste and a super-hit of nicotine with Juul. But then you start to learn about things like salt nic and refillable pods. Yeah, no need to spend all that money on Juul pods.

Finic 20
I am now best friends with the Caliburn. Like the Pico Baby, it's small and discreet.  Because it's narrow and flat, it's nice to have when you don't want to carry a purse. This is a good pocket vape.

Another device that I wasn't immediately thrilled with is the Finic 20 from Voopoo. Since I won it in a giveaway, I was willing to get used to it. And I have to admit, it's a cute little device. When I was given a choice of 3 devices, I chose to wait a month for this one mainly because of the colors and design.

I had to use this for a few days and figure out that I could not only vape cigarette-style but also do DTL vaping. Then I was happy. I don't use this all the time but I like it.



I can't believe that I'm just now mentioning one of my fave devices. Well, it's my sort-of-fave. The first one I got went wonky and I had to fight my way through getting it replaced. Tedious. But so worth it because this thing is AHmazing. Behold the Voopoo Caliber.

Oh my my my! How I love this thing. It's beautiful and a vape- monster (if that's a thing). The one reason I use this mostly at home and don't pack it around is that it's freaking solid. It's too fat to tuck in a pant or skirt pocket and too heavy for a shirt pocket. I don't mean to say that it's crazy-heavy, but it's just a bit much for tucking away anywhere, in my opinion.
Uwell Whirl 22

No worries though. Just like the Pico Baby is the kid sister to the Pico Squeeze, I did find the adopted kid sibling to the Caliber. Adopted because it's got a different mother.

That's the Uwell Whirl 22. How cute is it? For a $20 device... I'll say that if I could, I would have paid twice that. It's not as powerful as the Caliber, of course, but it's a nice substitute for taking around on the go. It's smaller and much lighter in weight.


 Look at them together. Just kind of amazing that I found something like the Whirl. It's one of the devices that I liked the minute I got it.



I'm just now discovering that, for some reason, I never did a review of the Smok Priv V8. Huh. Well, I will have to do that. For now, here is what it looks like and I can tell you that it's another device I was a little slow to fall in love with.

There are some pros and cons with this one and I promise to do a short review soon.



The Innokin Endura is one that I started out liking and then... things have been going downhill. I listed the pros and cons when I reviewed the device but those negatives have become very annoying. The other day, it tipped over again and then started leaking. When I tried to see what was up, the whole top part fell apart. So... yeah. That thing was too much trouble to fill and then, with the constantly tipping over, it just went into a drawer somewhere. At least I got an extra drip tip that fits a couple of the other small devices...



You can probably tell that I tend to like Smok devices - even though I don't know if I'm pronouncing Smok correctly. I say "Smock" but some other people say "Smoke". Whatever. Maybe because a Smok was my first serious device after the Juul, I feel comfortable with them. I will say one thing though: When Smok gets it right, they nail it, but when they get it wrong...

The Smok Infinix was a device I raved about for a long time. Then, recently, I could hear light hissing after I finished taking a hit. I changed to a new, clean pod and the same thing happened. I'm going to have my brother or nephew take a look at it the next time they are over. Ugh

By the way, in a battle between the Infinix and the Caliburn, the Infinix gets its butt kicked. For flavor, vapor, and reliable hits, the Caliburn is the champ. Also, next to the Caliburn, the Infinix looks and feels a little cheap.  I have to admit right now that Uwell and Eleaf are becoming my favorites. Sorry, Smok.

Looking at this list, I'm thinking that I have a lot of devices! In reality, it has been a year since I quit cigarettes and with contests, giveaways, and sales, I haven't done too badly. If you didn't believe me when I told you how long juice lasts me, just look at how much I accumulated over a 4 month period. I won't be buying juice again for a very long minute...

I took this photo 6 months ago for a post and I still have about 5 full or nearly full 30ml bottles and I think I still have all of those 10ml bottles.



So, if you didn't doze off somewhere before this, I might as well tell you about a fun app I've signed up with called Vaffle. It's social media for vape enthusiasts. I am not that into it yet because it's not very user-friendly. However, it is an awesome place to look at very cool and unusual devices. I love that part.

By the way, here is a post I did about some of the shops I frequent. And remember, I am a broke cheapskate so...

I hope you had fun looking at the different vapes and, hopefully, reading some of the linked reviews. And remember, as a vaper, be cool, not annoying.

Peace
--Free



I think this young man in underappreciated